Huge win for car owners! All TSBs to be made public. The Center for Auto Safety just made the NHTSA (US Government) make public the full text of all TSBs from now on. They are the same organization that has petitioned the NHTSA & filed lawsuits to protect car owners over exploding gas tanks & other major safety issues. Whenever you drive in your car, you are safer thanks in part to a lot of work over the years by this small but very effective consumer advocacy group.

Please take a moment & say thank you by donating $5 or whatever you can to the Center for Auto Safety. Notes: The Saturn Ion was a compact bundle of hurt wrapped up in a cheap, plastic shell. With so many defective components and a safety rating that a bicycle would be ashamed of, it’s a blessing this car only lasted five model years.

The 2003 (and 2004) Ion was cursed with GM’s flawed attempt at a continuously variable transmission, known as the VTi. It had such a high failure rate that a class-action lawsuit was filed against GM, eventually prompting a settlement and a warranty extension. GM discontinued the VTi for the 2005 model year – surprise, surprise.

The 2003 Ion was also part of one of the largest and most controversial recalls of all-time. A defective ignition switch in millions of GM vehicles could accidentally turn the car off and disable important safety components like the power steering and airbags. The problem resulted in at least 13 deaths, but what made it worse was that GM knew about the issue for 10 years before doing anything about it.

So was the transmission warranty extended? Yeah. Was the ignition switch recalled? Eventually. Is this car safe to drive? Not really. Honestly, you’re better off looking elsewhere.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
8 / 3
Injuries / Deaths:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
56,368 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Saturn Ion electrical problems

electrical problem

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2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments (Page 6 of 11)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #117

Jan 012008


  • 60,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the key became lodged in the ignition and the contact was unable to power the vehicle off. In addition, the contact stated that the key could intermittently be removed but the vehicle would remain powered on. The vehicle was taken to the dealer. The technician diagnosed that the ignition cylinder was defective and needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The vehicle was repaired. The failure mileage was 60,000 and the current mileage was 130,000.

- Fort Worth, TX, USA

problem #116

Dec 072011


  • 100,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. While parked, the contact turned the key in the ignition to shut the engine off but the key could not be turned pass the accessory mode. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic for diagnostic testing. The mechanic advised the contact that the ignition switch would have to be repaired. The contact stated that the ignition was previously replaced for the same failure. The vehicle was not repaired for the recent failure. The approximate failure mileage was 100,000.

- North Little Rock, AR, USA

problem #115

Sep 192012


  • 83,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion II. The contact stated that the key would become stuck in the ignition switch. The contact had to call a locksmith to remove the key from the ignition. The contact did not take the vehicle to the dealer to have the ignition switch replaced. The failure mileage was 83,000.

- Calumet City, IL, USA

problem #114

Apr 182007


  • 35,000 miles


Intermittent starting problem, car sounds like it is starting then doesnt, I wait ten minutes then it will start. Ignition switch problem

- Portland, ME, USA

problem #113

Feb 082011


  • 125,000 miles
Yet another complaint on the faulty ignition switch on the Saturn Ion. Since it appears hundreds of thousands of people are having this same problem, and GM is aware of this problem why has there not been a recall"? car will not start when cold, key gets stuck in ignition. GM what is the deal??"

- Burnsville, MN, USA

problem #112

Aug 012010


  • 70,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the vehicle would experience difficulty starting and would need numerous attempts before successfully starting. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic and the park and neutral position switch was replaced. The failure began to recur approximately eighteen months later. The vehicle was not taken to be repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure and offered no assistance. The failure mileage was approximately 70,000.

- Amherst, NY, USA

problem #111

Jun 092009


  • miles


In very cold weather the car will not start.

- Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #110

Jul 242011

Ion 4-cyl

  • 42,000 miles
The car's headlights and instrument lights shut off. Warning lights such as "check engine", "ABS", and "theft lock" all came on after parking the car. The horn would not shut off, I had to disconnect the battery to get horn to stop. Attempted to start the following morning and while reconnecting the battery the horn came on again and the listed above lights stayed on. Car has been unreliable and unsafe to drive!!!

- Staten Island, NY, USA

problem #109

Sep 222011


  • 109,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact stated the ignition key became stuck in the ignition switch. The contact took the vehicle to a dealer who replaced the ignition switch. A week after the vehicle was repaired the key became stuck in the ignition. The contact called the manufacturer who stated due to the vehicle not being covered by a warranty there was nothing they could do. The contact noticed numerous complaints regarding the faulty ignition switch on various models associated with the same manufacturer. The contact stated the vehicle was unsafe to drive. The failure mileage was 109,000.

- Stone Mountain , GA, USA

problem #108

Aug 292011

Ion 4-cyl

  • 64,110 miles
Randomly, my 2003 Saturn Ion-3 refuses to start due to the widely known yet unresolved ignition switch passlock problem. The occurrences have steadily increased in frequency over the last couple of years. The potential safety consequences of this prevalent issue are being overlooked, and it should be formally investigated. Additionally, it raises concerns about faultiness in other critical components. The repair costs are unfair to us consumers for this admittedly faulty part; it should be handled by recall.

- Bellevue, WA, USA

problem #107

Jun 102007

Ion 4-cyl

  • 55,000 miles


Having problems with turning off car. Alot of the time my key won't be able to turn car off all the way so my key gets stuck. I will have to wait maybe 10 minutes before I will hear a click and finally turn it off.

- Copperas Cove, TX, USA

problem #106

Feb 222011


  • 69,500 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the vehicle would not start immediately and it took approximately five attempts to start the vehicle. The vehicle was taken to a local mechanic but there were no diagnostic codes displayed. The vehicle was not repaired. The contact called the manufacturer who offered no assistance. The current mileage was 70,165. The failure mileage was approximately 69,500.

- Morehead City, NC, USA

problem #105

Mar 242011

Ion 4-cyl

  • 106,750 miles
The issue is in connection with a 2003 Saturn Ion. Recently, while driving, there appears to be a click coming from the front left side of the car, most likely coming from the fuse box. Immediately following the click, there is three dings followed by a message on the dash "pwr str". after this has occurred, the vehicle loses its power steering abilities, causing significant more force to be used when operating the vehicle. Typically this is fine when on a straight road but often this is not the case as I drive on roads with sharp curves leading to the risk of significant danger if I was to lose power steering while taking one of these turns. If the car is turned off while in motion and then turned on again the power steering does begin to work again although often the events occur again and the car loses power steering.

- Spokane, WA, USA

problem #104

Feb 122010

Ion 4-cyl

  • 25,000 miles
2003 Saturn Ion-3 purchased new began not starting in 2009. After waiting approximately 10-15 minutes the car starts up. Took the car to a repair shop where a diagnostic test was done and they could not find a problem and could not reproduce the car not starting. Went on-line and discovered numerous complaints from other Saturn Ion owners regarding this exact problem. Wrote a letter and sent copies of these same complaints to GM in January 2009. A service rep. Called me saying they had no recalls for this problem and nothing could be done about it by GM. Starting having many more incidents of the car not starting in 2010, but waiting the 10-15 minutes and the car then starting. Sent an E-mail to GM regarding this issue. Again a service rep. Called and said due to the age of the car I should take it to an authorized dealer and the repair, if they could find it, was my responsibility. This issue can be quite serious since you cannot start your vehicle and are left sitting there in conditions that could be dangerous (very cold weather, late at night, etc.) lately this situation has happened 6-8 times in two weeks. It would certainly help if GM knows about this situation and would issue a recall.

- Olathe, KS, USA

problem #103

Jan 312011

Ion 4-cyl

  • 115,000 miles
2003 Saturn Ion ignition switch broke; became inoperative & cost $600 to repair & could have been accident causal.

- Sioux Falls, SD, USA

problem #102

Jan 122009


  • 60,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion level 2 (na). The contact noticed that the vehicle would not start intermittently. The vehicle was taken to the dealer who performed a diagnostic test which concluded that the ignition switch and pass lock needed to be repaired. The contact did not inform the manufacturer. The dealer was repairing the ignition switch and the anti theft device system. The current mileage was approximately 66,000. The failure mileage was approximately 60,000.

- Hillsboro, OR, USA

problem #101

Jan 012005


  • 30,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact noticed that the key would remain stuck in the ignition when the vehicle was shut off. Both the dealer and manufacturer were notified who was aware of the issue but did not offer any additional assistance. The vehicle was not repaired. The current mileage was approximately 60,000. The failure mileage was approximately 30,000. The VIN was unavailable.

- Seal Beach, CA, USA

problem #100

Jan 102003


  • 60,000 miles
2003 Ion Saturn will not start on cold mornings. This started 2010 in January. I have taken to Firestone to fix. Wasn't cold enough. Car started. Now weather is colder and car will not start. Service engine light comes on. Then nothing. I have noticed several complaints of this same type that I am having. My car only has 60,000 miles. New battery put in Jan 2010. Car mechanic said cannot determine problem until car won't start for them. Very frustrating. This is really the only problem I have had with my 2003 Saturn Ion. Wanted to keep car for a long time. After the weather gets warmer during the day, car will start right up. Recall"?"

- Oklahoma City, OK, USA

problem #99

Nov 022010


  • 93,254 miles
Vehicle was taken to authorized Saturn dealer, 2003 Saturn Ion had continuous high engine idle after being driven at highway speeds. If vehicle was shut off the power control module(PCM) computer reset it self. Saturn dealer serviced the vehicle by re-programming the PCM( 10/21/10) as per a issued service bulletin of 4/2004. This did not work. Then they advised a spring in throttle body (engine) was bad and replaced spring ( 10/28/10). This also did not work, engine still has high idle and I bought the vehicle back on 11/2/10 to the service dealer.. service dealer then hooked up car to computer and has ser tech drive vehicle for over 25 miles, 2 times ; and thenfound another problem. They indicated that the power control module computer had a short and caused a burned out component in the computer. Since the Saturn is no longer being produces, the computer which must be replaced is on back order; and unknown when part will arrive. The Saturn service dealer ( ingersoll auto in danbury ct) advised that the vehicle should not be driven as it was a safety hazard, since the computer controls not only the engine but the ABS braking system. At this time unknown when a part will arrive as it is on back order. In searching the internet I found numerous complaints from person who also had problems with the power control module computer. I believe that GM/Saturn has had full knowledge of the problem and should have taken care of this problem prior; and as other owners of Saturn are having this serious problem then GM should be making replacement parts for this computer more available to Saturn owners. Ingersoll auto in danbury ct has advised me that they do notknow when the replacement computer will be available as there is no part available in the entire usa. Part will have to be made by GM and unknown when this will happen. So my 2003 Saturn Ion must be left at the dealer until a replacement computer is sent by GM, so my car can be repaired.

- New Windsor, NY, USA

problem #98

Oct 012010


  • 86,000 miles
2003 Saturn Ion, this is the second ignition switch to be replaced in this car. On this occasion the key will not release from the switch. This appears to be a major problem with Saturn..why no recall?

- Spring, TX, USA

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